—Ray Hadley, South Lake Tahoe
There’s not much out here
in the desert of eastern Nevada,
sage brush and the plane geometry
of a small town of the horizon.
Ice sets up on the reservoir like frosting
on a stale cake. The moon, painted
on the wooden background
of a shooting gallery, sinks into the tules.
The ducks are quiet on their metal chains.
A coyote with glowing eyes looks at us
as if he were peering into the bedroom
checking up on his sleeping children.
There’s not much out there, but for now
it’s more than enough.
Cars pass through. There’s a light on
in the liquor store, but the store is closed.
There are two churches on big lawns bathed
in yellow light blinking from a wire hung
in the middle of the intersection.
There are two softly lit crèches which seem
to be in competition with one another (the inn’s
full and now all the barns); two Protestant
denominations who had a big fight a hundred
years ago. Now no one remembers
what it was all about.
“Merry Christmas to All” says the sign strung
across the street. The wind that sends
it rattling also brings dust-devils to the door
of the dark pharmacy and to the row
of empty cafes.
We look both ways, and glide carefully through
THE BACH TROMBONES AT BETHLEHEM, PENNSYLVANIA
They have the flamboyance of tulips or other big
blossoms,—lilacs maybe, whose massiveness,
observed close by, breaks up in complex
fretworks of joy, compounded, proud,
beautiful in its abundance, filling the air.
So, in this brassy music, massive joy
downed no more than the flowers by the sinking times,
the terrible world where hollow catastrophe
hangs wherever. The shouting brass shouts
“but nevertheless”, the nevertheless of joy.
The nevertheless, the yet. The truth is all
the numbers to be added but not, in the end, their sum.
How almost like the beasts, with only barks
and cries we are, so tangent is any speech
to all we know. What opposites are true!
MUSIC THAT SEES BEYOND THE WORLD
Decembers, the little deaths of dark pool down.
Intricate, bare branches blot in the black.
Warning: Darkness Approaching. The unknowing dark,
the unknown. We see the warning. We see, we see.
And much that other months have seen, or more
not seen, desired but never seen
could please us to let the lights be off:
if darkness is coming, let the darkness be.
We think of mirages, unreal images,
of all the world’s walls as looking glass
opaquely repeating our looking always, and the glass
sun blinding our eyes. How can we see?
What can we see? Blinded, how close we come
inside the cage of light, to that blind state
which answers only “darkness” to the dark.
Dazzled. Dizzied. Not even deaths or deep
disasters, not pleasures face to face
have shape, seem real. They happen merely, they
are there. And dark as an alternate seems good.
And yet, not yet. Before the final night
to see again and more, a shape outside,
or a world beyond our world which holds our world,
as music, we know, has seen in certain lines
that are and are again. There is that world.
and a peaceful new year—